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20-Minute Yoga Practice for After Work

20-Minute Yoga Practice for After Work


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The trick with practicing yoga after work is you typically need different things but you have to choose one type of class. Vinyasa or restorative. Slow flow or yin. Hot or hatha.

Sometimes you can’t abruptly slow your racing thoughts and subdue your fidgety body right away like yin or restorative poses demand. Maybe you need to move a little and physically expend some of that residual work tension (ahem, vata) but find an entire hour of fast-paced vinyasa depletes you rather than rehabilitates you. What happens when you desperately need to draw on elements found in different practices?

The following 20-minute after-work yoga practice can help. It challenges you enough to draw you out of your head and into your body. It moves you slowly enough so you don’t feel like you’re rushing through yet another thing in your day. And it eases you into longheld stretches at the end so you can come away feeling soothed rather than flat-out exhausted. You’ll release accumulated work tension and quiet your thoughts and maximize your yoga after work practice so you can feel like yourself for the rest of your evening.

Yoga After Work Practice to Unleash Tension

The following yoga after work practice includes some unexpected variations and transitions that can challenge you to remain focused rather than lose yourself in your thoughts. There’s also some movement from the front of the mat to the back to keep things from feeling too predictable or letting your focus stray off your mat. And there’s ample time spent in each pose to challenge yourself not just with movement or shapes but with stillness, which is arguably the hardest part of any yoga after work practice. It’s intense AF in some ways yet also quite accomodating in others.

A Black woman wearing cream colored tights and top practices Child's Pose (Balasana). She is on a wood floor against a white backdrop.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Child’s Pose

Come to your hands and knees and take your knees wider than your hips before you sink your hips back toward your heels. Rest your arms alongside your legs, palms up, in Child’s Pose. Let your forehead rest heavy on the mat. As you slowly exhale, breathe everything out. As you take your time with your inhale, let your side ribs expand and draw your breath toward your heels. As you exhale again, release your shoulders and all your weight into the mat, releasing tension in your shoulders, hips, and thighs. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.

Slowly extend your arms forward and pause here. Then walk your hands over to the left, feeling the stretch along your right side. Draw your right hip a little more toward the wall behind you and, if you like, place your right hand on your left to intensify the stretch. Stay here for at least 5 breaths. Slowly walk your hands over to the left and repeat. Come back to your center.

A woman with colorful arm and back tatoos practices Tabletop pose
(Photo: Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Tabletop

Slide your hands beneath your shoulders and lift yourself to hands and knees. Whatever movement feels good to you here, do that. Maybe you rock forward and backward, taking your shoulders slightly in front of your wrists and then sinking your hips toward your heels. Maybe you sway side to side or circle your shoulders and hips or take Cat and Cow. Maybe you angle your fingers out toward the sides or turn them to face your knees and stretch your wrists. Whatever you do, stay here for at least 10 breaths.

A man with dark hair practices Extended Puppy Pose with his elbows propped on cork blocks and hands in prayer position. He wears a blue-gray shorts and a top in the same color.

(Photo: Andrew Clark. )

Puppy Pose

From Tabletop, keep your hips stacked over our knees as you walk your hands forward. Rest your arms on the mat, shoulder-distance apart. You can intensify the stretch by sliding blocks beneath your elbows and keeping your arms straight or bending your elbows and taking reverse prayer hands to isolate your upper back. Each time you exhale, let your chest sink closer toward the mat. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.

A person demonstrates Gate Pose in yoga
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Gate Pose

From Puppy Pose, bring your hands back beneath your shoulders. Bring your left leg straight out to the side in line with your right knee, flex your left foot, and press down through the outer edge of your foot. Walk your hands toward you and come to kneeling. Slide your left hand along your left leg and reach your right arm overhead. Look beneath your right arm or turn and gaze at your left foot. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.

Slowly start to rotate your chest and right shoulder toward your left side and sweep your right arm down and back to center as you return to hands and knees. Switch sides.

A man in blue shorts and a top practices Downward-Facing Dog with his knees bent. He is on a wood-plank floor with a white wall behind him
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Down Dog

From Gate Pose on the second side, bring yourself back to hands and knees, tuck your toes, and lift your hips up and back into Down Dog. Take your time and walk it out, bending one knee and shifting that hip to the side and pause before switching sides, back and forth, taking your time. Eventually, find yourself in stillness with your knees bent as much as you need. Take a long, slow exhalation here. Stay here for several more breaths.

Man doing a forward bend in gym clothes.
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Standing Forward Bend

From Down Dog, slowly walk yourself to the front of the mat and bring your feet hip-distance apart or wider. Bend your knees slightly and come into a Standing Forward Bend, releasing any tension in your neck and shoulders and slowing your breath. Stay here for several breaths.

A woman practices a lunge pose. Her right foot in forward; her left knee is resting on a folded blanket. She has her hands on cork bloks. She has on red leggings and a cropped top.
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Low Lunge

From Standing Forward Bend, step your left foot back, lower your knee to the mat, and bring your hands to the mat or blocks on either side of your front right foot in Low Lunge. Inch your left knee back a little until you feel a stretch along the front of your left thigh. Lift out of your low back to avoid compressing the lumbar spine. Make any adjustments that lessen or intensify the stretch. Feel as though you’re trying to drag your front heel toward the back of the mat. Breathe here.

Woman demonstrates Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend

From Low Lunge, bring your hands to the mat, tuck your back toes, lift your back knee, and spin the outer edge of your back foot flat at an angle. Walk yourself to face the left long side of the mat, pivoting on your feet, and find a wide-legged forward bend with your toes angled slightly inward. Place your hands on the mat beneath your shoulders with your fingertips in line with your toes. Bend your elbows as if you were in Chaturanga.

Slowly shift your weight from the back to the front of your feet and find a comfortable balance in between. Stay here or walk your hands straight ahead in Down Dog arms while subtly reaching your hips toward the wall behind you to stretch your back and hamstrings. Breathe here.

From here, pivot to face the back of the mat in a Low Lunge with your left knee forward and and right knee on the mat in a Low Lunge. Breathe here.

Come back to Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend facing the long side of the mat. This time consider clasping your hands behind your back and reaching your knuckles toward the ceiling or walking you hands between your legs toward the wall behind you while shifting your weight slightly forward in your feet.

Plank Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Plank

From facing the long side of the mat, walk to the front and step back to Plank or Forearm Plank. Spread your fingers and ground down through your knuckles. Push through your heels. Breathe here.

Cobra Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Cobra

From Plank, slowly lower yourself to the mat with your forehead on the mat. Untuck your toes and press the tops of your feet into the mat. Bring your hands beneath your shoulders and press down to lift yourself slightly in Cobra Pose. Breathe here.

Slowly lower your forehead to the mat and pause. When you’re ready, lift yourself in Cobra again but first float your hands an inch off the mat and lift your chest using only your back muscles. Lower yourself to the mat again.

Down Dog

From lying on the mat with your hands beneath your shoulders, tuck your toes and exhale all the air out. As you inhale, push yourself straight back up to Plank. Exhale and shift your hips up and back to Down Dog. Breathe here.

Woman practices Three Legged Dog with her right knee lifted and bent so that her foot is pointing to the left. She is wearing brlght magenta yoga pants and a cropped top. She has dark hair; there is an elaborate tatoo on her arm and side body.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

Three-Legged Dog

From Down Dog, lift your right leg into Three-Legged Dog, bend your right knee, and let your heel fall behind you. Keep pressing equally through both hands and keep your right shoulder in line with your left to intensify the stretch along your right side. Breathe here.

(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Reverse Warrior

From Three-Legged Down Dog, extend your right leg straight behind you. (If you like, take it into Fallen Triangle on your left side by taking your right leg straight beneath your chest with your right foot resting on the floor as you shift all your weight onto your right arm and then reach your left arm toward the ceiling before coming back to Three-Legged Dog.)

From Three-Legged Dog, step or walk your right foot to the front of the mat. Spin the outer edge of your back left heel flat, lift the arch of your back foot, and inhale as you side bend and reach your right arm alongside your head in Reverse Warrior. Look under your right arm or turn your head down and look toward your back heel. If you want, bend your left elbow and reach your arm behind your back in a half bind. Breathe here.

Extended Side Angle Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Extended Side Angle

From Reverse Warrior, keep your legs in the exact same position as you lean forward over your right thigh in Extended Side Angle. Rest your right forearm on your front thigh or bring your hand to the mat or a block. Keep pressing through the outer edge of your back foot to engage your back leg. Breathe here.

Noemi Nunez practices Revolved Half Moon Pose.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

Revolved Half Moon

From Extended Side Angle, start to roll your left shoulder and chest toward the mat like you did earlier in Gate Pose and sweep your left arm down and along the long side of the mat as you pivot on the balls of your feet to face the back of the mat. You’ll end up in a Low Lunge with your left foot forward.

Slide your fingertips about a foot in front of your shoulders and place them on the floor or blocks. Shift all your weight into your left foot, and lift your right leg straight behind you.  Push through your heel as you stay here or reach your left arm straight out to the left or toward the ceiling in Revolved Half Moon facing the back of the mat. Breathe here.

Woman in yellow workout outfit on hardwood floor performing Chair Pose in yoga with her knees bent and arms reaching up toward the ceiling.
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Chair Pose

From Revolved Half Moon, slowly lower your left hand to the mat and bring your right foot alongside your left. Bend your knees and sink your hips as you come into Chair Pose facing the back of the mat. Reach your arms alongside your ears and shrug your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe here.

A person demonstrates Side Plank in yoga
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Side Plank

From Chair Pose at the back of the mat, step your right foot back followed by your left and come into Plank Pose. Roll onto the outer edge of your right foot and stack your left foot on top. Shift all your weight into your right hand as you slowly reach your left arm toward the ceiling in Side Plank. Breathe here.

If you want, bend your top knee and bring your foot to your inner thigh like Tree Pose or straighten your top leg and extend it toward the ceiling and reach for it with your peace fingers.

5-minute yoga practice
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Wild Thing

From any version of Side Plank, bend your left leg and step it behind you on the floor as you reach your left arm alongside your ear. Straighten your right leg and push your foot into the mat to lift your hips and create a backbend in Wild Thing. Gaze at your left fingertips. Breathe here.

A man in blue shorts and a top practices Downward-Facing Dog with his knees bent. He is on a wood-plank floor with a white wall behind him
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Down Dog

From Wild Thing, slowly unwind and bring both feet and hands to the mat in Down Dog or you can shift forward into Plank and move through Chaturanga and Upward-Facing-Dog, before settling into Down Dog facing the back of the mat.

Repeat the sequence, beginning with Three-Legged Dog, Reverse Warrior, and Extended Side Angle before you transition to the front of the mat in Revolved Half Moon followed by Chair, Side Plank, and Wild Thing. Find your way to Down Dog.

Man sitting and stretching tight hamstrings and low back
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Seated Forward Bend

From Down Dog, lower your knees to the mat, cross your shins behind you, and sit back on your bum. Straighten your legs in front of you in whatever way feels comfortable, whether that’s with your feet together or about hip-distance apart. Lean slightly forward on your sit bones or sit on the edge of a folded blanket. Inhale as you lengthen through your back, exhale as you hinge at your hips and lean your chest forward toward your toes. The entire point is to feel a stretch along the backs of your legs and your lower back. There’s no need to force your chest toward your thighs or to tense your shoulders. Simply find what some yin yoga teachers refer to as “a comfortable discomfort.” Breathe here for at least 90 seconds.

You may find that at some point your body will start to release a little. Let that happen.

Bridge Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Supported Bridge

Have a block or a couple pillows or a firm couch cushion within reach. Bend your knees and bring your feet flat on the mat. Lift your hips and slide the support underneath the lowest part of your back, the sacrum, which is a flat triangle-shaped bone. Slowly lower your back onto the support and let all your weight release onto it. Shrug your shoulders and get comfortable. Rest your arms alongside your body, palms up or down. Stay here or perhaps you play with straightening your legs and letting them fall out slightly to the sides as you would in Savasana. Breathe here for at least 90 seconds.

Press through your feet, lift your hips, and slide the support out from beneath you. Release your lower back to the mat.

Woman practices a variation of Happy Baby Pose for pelvic floor dysfunction
(Photo by Andrew Clark)

Happy Baby

Draw your knees toward your chest and try to stack your ankles over your knees. Bring your hands to your calves or, if you can reach your feet, hold onto the outer edges. The focus here isn’t so much to have your shins perpendicular to the mat as it is to press your lower back into the mat and feel the stretch. Draw the tops of your feet toward your chest and then reach the outer edges of your feet toward the side. Keep your shoulder blades on the mat and your neck relaxed. Breathe here for at least 90 seconds. If it’s more comfortable, try doing one leg at a time and keep your other knee bent and your foot on the mat like in Supported Bridge.

Woman demonstrating a pigeon pose variation
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Reclined Pigeon

From Supported Bridge, release the support and slowly lower your back to the mat. Linger here for several breaths. Bend your right knee and bring your ankle to your left thigh. Lean your right knee away from you to intensify the stretch and flex your right foot. Hang out here for several breaths.

Keep your legs in the same shape but lean your lower body to the left so that your outer left thigh and the bottom of your right foot come onto the floor. Continue to lean your right knee away from you. If you like, reach your right arm straight out from your shoulder or let it rest alongside your right ear. Let the shape hold you rather than you hold the shape. Stay here for at least 90 seconds.

Slowly unwind and repeat on the other side.

Savasana
(Photo: Andrew Clarkz

Savasana

Before you end your yoga after work practice, find whatever version of Savasana works for you, whether flat on your mat or perhaps with a rolled blanket or pillow beneath your knees to help release tension in your lower back. Perhaps you instead try Legs Up the Wall. Whatever feels good, do that. Let the weight of your body settle heavy. Bring your awareness back to your breath. Notice especially the slight pause at the end of your exhalation and the stillness you find there. With each exhalation, let yourself settle a little more deeply into that stillness.



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